For many kids it takes all primary school to learn their tables. It seems a 100% of these students have forgotten them week 1 year 8. Then they hit fractions and have all sorts of trouble.
I recently had the opportunity to teach a young lad (11 years old) at a local catholic primary school, two days a week in class for an hour. He could not recognise numbers, could not perform operations and misbehaved constantly in class as he was unable to contribute to lessons. In two terms we had turned him around and these basic concepts were grasped. His mum thought I was a miracle worker. Nothing of the sort, he just needed some old fashioned one-on-one teaching.. After we fixed up some of his other problems, here's what we did with his tables. It works with any age of student that wants to learn or is given sufficient motivation to try.
a) Create an 12x12 grid, In the top left put an x(multiplication symbol). Number the top 0 to 11 and the left hand side 0-11
b) Start with multiples of 10, 5, 0 , 1, 2. Get students to fill in those columns. Identify patterns in the columns to help them remember (eg. even numbers, end in zero etc.) As time goes by get the student to fill in more columns. Time them and re-inforce the need for legibility.
c) Once they master each multiple set (eg. multiples of 2) create palm cards, one set with the left hand side of the equation (eg. 1 x 2 = ) and another with the answer (eg. 2). Use these to either play bingo or concentration.
d) Get students to copy out the current table being learned 5 times (eg. the 2 times table), rewriting any errors 5 times. Make sure that the commutative property is reinforced all the time (eg. 1x2 =2; 2 x 1=2)
e) Create worksheets that show the connection between addition, multiplication, division and subtraction (eg. 2 x 3 = 6; 2+2+2=6; 6 - 2 - 2 -2 = 0; 6÷3=2). Use colour on the sheets and repeat the sheets regularly without changing them. Create them such that they can be completed in less than 5 mins and have many different sheets prepared. Allow them to choose which to complete. Keep all of them as a measure of progress in a file. Only when they get 95-100% of the sheet correct change them.
I know it all sounds obvious. You will find by the 7,8,9 times tables the student only has to learn a few equations (as most of them were already mastered when doing 1-6 times tables (eg. 1x9..6x9). The key is regular repetition. Be careful though - in the early stages my student was very mentally drained as in each lesson a lot is being memorised. The learning curve can be quite steep. This mental drain turns into how many worksheets can I complete in one session. By th end we had introduced another student and started using competition as a motivator.
I still have all the worksheets I made if anyone needs them (it might save you a little work). Drop me a comment and I'll dig up the server I've uploaded them onto and post it here.
If anyone is having second thoughts about the repeated addition part above - here is a great addendum to the article.